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The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell

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Russia 16, Ukraine 10, Chris Christie 9, Us 9, Steve Mcqueen 7, United Nations 6, Christie 6, Steve 6, Crimea 5, Obama 4, Chuck Hagel 4, Lupita Nyong 4, United States 4, Solomon Northup 4, Hollywood 4, America 4, Boise 4, Subaru 3, Allstate 3, U.n. 3,
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  MSNBC    The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  

    March 3, 2014
    7:00 - 8:01pm PST  

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allegiances by 5:00 a.m. local time. the russians are denying that this threat happened in crimea, but local reporters at the scene say they did hear these threats on the loudspeakers from a russian ship. she say it was real if you heard it in real time. well, despite the russian denials, if that threat was real, and if the russians are planning on following through with it, i should note that the deadline of 5:00 a.m. local time that was issued by loudspeaker on that ship today, that would be right now, 10:00 p.m. eastern time here in the united states. all eyes on the black sea. watch this space. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. thanks for being with us tonight. when may i shoot a student? that's the question a college professor asked in a "new york times" op-ed last week now that the legislature in his state wants to allow college students on campus to have guns. and republicans have always blamed russian invasions on russian leaders.
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until now. >> we start with the fast-moving events out of ukraine. >> the situation has not stopped lawmakers from ratcheting up the criticism. >> you do have a lot of criticism of the president. >> and pointing fingers. >> this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy. >> every time the president goes on national television -- >> where nobody believes in america's strength anymore. >> everybody's eyes roll, including mine. >> putin is playing chess. >> putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. >> i think we're playing marbles. >> that's what you call a leader. >> that's what you call a dictator. >> that's what you call a leader. >> shoot first, ask questions later for rudy giuliani. >> you do have a lot of criticism of the president, saying that he needs to take stronger action. >> i don't believe that criticism is justified. >> what conceivable stronger action could be taken? >> tough sanctions. >> economic sanctions. aid to the ukrainian people. talk about the expansion of nato. >> the last thing we need to do here is just talk around in circles. >> president obama is sending secretary of state john kerry. >> secretary of state john kerry to kiev tomorrow as a show of support for the ukrainian
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government. >> the real problem today is vladimir putin's. >> what is happening today is a dangerous military intervention. >> vladimir putin has a ukraine that is coming apart. >> this is an act of aggression. it must stop. today it was the obama administration and the western world versus vladimir putin. president obama just finished a meeting with his national security council which included john kerry, chuck hagel, and susan rice. earlier today the president was carefully restrained in his public assessment of the situation. >> the facts on the ground in crimea are deeply troubling. and russia has a large army that borders ukraine. but what is also true is that over time this will be a costly proposition for russia.
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and now is the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force. >> the president wisely left the tough talk to his foreign policy team. >> you cannot behave this way in the 21st century and sit around the table of the normal entities and pretend that life is as usual. it is not going to be as usual. if russia wants to be a g8 country it needs to behave like a g8 country. he is not going to have a sochi g8. he may not even remain in the g8 if this continues. he may find himself with asset freezes on russian business, american business may pull back. there may be a further tumble of the ruble. there's a huge price to pay. the united states is united. russia is isolated. that is not a position of strength. >> at the united nations today
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ambassador samantha power spoke directly to her russian counterpart. >> russia has every right to wish that events in ukraine had turned out differently, but it does not have the right to express that unhappiness by using military force or by trying to convince the world community that up is down and black is white. the bottom line is that for all of the self-serving rhetoric we have heard from russian officials in recent days there is nothing that justifies russian conduct. as i said in our last session, russia's actions speak much louder than its words. what is happening today is not a human rights protection mission, and it is not a consensual intervention. what is happening today is a dangerous military intervention in ukraine. it is an act of aggression. it must stop. >> of course some congressional republicans who have nothing constructive to say about what america should do in this situation found a way to blame president obama instead of
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president putin for the invasion of crimea. >> this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in america's strength anymore. >> every time the president goes on national television and threatens putin or anyone like putin, everybody's eyes roll, including mine. we have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. >> no word on whether lindsey graham's eyes rolled today when president obama told congress what it needs to do. >> i've heard a lot of talk from congress about what should be done, what they want to do. one thing they can do right away is to work with the administration to help provide a packa agage of assistance to th ukrainians, to the people and that government. and my expectation is i'll be able to get congress to work with us in order to achieve that goal. >> some republicans in congress
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responded with traditional bipartisan unity in the face of a foreign crisis. house majority leader eric cantor issued a statement saying, "i have asked our house committee chairman to develop plans to assist the government of ukraine but put pressure on russia and reassure allies throughout the world that the united states will not stand idly by. i have spoken to administration officials to express our interest in working together to ensure that president obama has the appropriate tools to impose real consequences on russia for this aggression. today on fox news rudy giuliani took time away from defending chris christie to praise vladimir putin. >> putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. he makes a decision, and he executes it. quickly. then everybody reacts. that's what you call a leader. president obama, got to think about it, he's got to go over it again. he's got to talk to more people about it. >> ah, yes. a man whose governing
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jurisdiction never extended beyond new york harbor, who doesn't understand the difference between a leader and a dictator. joining me now, steve clemons, washington editor at large for the "atlantic" and an msnbc contributor, and david rodin, investigator reporter for reuters. steve, on the political front i was struck by eric cantor today, whose statement reads as if it was something issued in the 1970s or the 1980s in congress whenever there o'would be a foreign crisis or hot spot involving the soviet union, it had that bipartisan unity. it was exactly out of the old playbook of the way congress would support a president in this situation. >> i mean, we should applaud eric cantor for that tone and posture that he set and send it over to john mccain and lindsey graham to remind them that in these times of crisis with a nation that has near-term memory of being one of the world's great superpowers and wants to
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be again that there are real consequences. russia has nuclear weapons. russia has a lot of pressure points in this that, you know, we have little leverage over. and i think what eric cantor said in terms of laying out the various options and being supportive of the president was really terrific. at the same time i think when lindsey graham said his eyes roll every time the president begins to talk about these issues, it was really a disservice and very disrespectful to the office of the president in a time of national crisis when obama is trying to be very levelheaded, not trying to overreact but not trying to underreact either. and that's when there should be an opportunity for the executive branch and the legislature to come together. >> let's listen to what the ukrainian ambassador said today at the u.n. security council about what russia has told the ukraine about why they have invaded. >> we still have not received any compelling answer to the simple question, why are the military forces of russian
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fedration illegally occupying crimea and brutally violating international law and bilateral agreements? >> david rode, how hard is it for russian diplomats to come up with some form of an answer to this country why they've rolled in? >> well, they've frankly just created this fiction about what's happening in ukraine, that russians are under threat, and there's absolutely no evidence avenof that from journalists on the ground. and it's scary, this k0e8d war rhetor rhetoric. this is really about putinism. it's a -- that sees our bickering as weakness. we're all dignitiering and divided in the west and when we get caught up in partisan games in a crisis like that it actually encourages people like putin. he thinks we're not going to respond. he thinks we'll pick fights with each other over short-term politics and he'll get away with this. >> steve, richard haas said
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something today that -- he said whenever you have a crisis like this it's important to take a step back and recognize that you're dealing with a square on a chess board, not the entire board. some of the things that are on the entire board with russia include negotiations on iran's nuclear program, getting chemical weapons out of syria, getting north korea back to the negotiating table, and talk about the difficulty of concentrating on any one item on this chess board with russia at the possible expense of other items. zb >> well, i happen to agree with richard haass on everything except this. i think richard has it inverted. the united states is very good with dealing with squares on the chess board. it's been much less good at dealing with the larger strategic picture with russia and the fact that vladimir putin has been engaged with us for a long period of time of testing
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the west on a great number of fronts and we simply haven't had a strategic plan. we've been acting in an a la carte, ad hoc way, siloing these little problems, whether it's syria or lgbt issues or edward snowden or any of the number of other issues because we've been fearful that if we did kind of play the broad strategic game on the chess board we would find that that struggle and contest was something that was much more severe than we were willing to accept. i disagree with richard. i think we've got the thing inverted and we can't look at this as just crimea or ukraine, there's something much more fundamental and deep going on, and we need to have a broader, careful, cautious, strategic response that deals with these many different issues. >> david rohde, how would playing the entire chess board look? what would that overall kind of policy look like? >> i think it would be a much more aggressive stance toward putin. and again, i agree with steve.
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the stakes here are very large. one key player that's watching this is china. if you remember, in november they declared on their own a unilateral air defense zone over thousands of miles in the pacific. this is a very dangerous precedent that's been setting. iraq was a disaster. this was an even lower precedent for military i7b9 ventionterven. putin has sort of outplayed us over the last decade. now germany gets 40% of its natural gas from russia. he knows that. he thinks the germans won't back sanctions. it is aj ah merkel, the german chancellor, who's saying we should not kick russia out of the g8. it's hurting him economically. it's isolating him. you don't give him the olympic games. you don't allow him in the g8. you hold him accountable. and i agree with steve, you have a strategy to isolate putin. putin is dangerous. putinism is dangerous. this rise rise of authoritarianism is something we need counter patiently, slowly, but consistently over time. >> steve, one of the problems in a situation like this is the
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ultimate action no one is willing to take. there is no one saying we should be willing to go to war with russia over this incursion. and once you eliminate getting into an actual shooting conflict, that eliminates an awful lot of other negotiating postures that hold some kind of threat behind them because the ultimate threat isn't present and putin knows that. >> well, lawrence, there are lots of layers in response that can be brought to this short of military to military conflict. but it's disconcerting to me, for instance, that today the department of defense and chuck hagel issued word that they're suspended military to military contact, training, exercises, all the kinds of things that we do to prevent -- really to promote deep communication between our militaries. many people will a34r5ud this as a strong step by the obama administration. i look at this as one of the
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crown jewels of what ought to be one of the last things you suspend because there are economic steps. we've been talking about the g8. there's simply the big spotlight that obama can put on this saying, you know, this is completely inappropriate. we need to kind of do some things that are not so fast paced, that give putin the opportunity to feel the gravity of what he's doing. but suspending military contact the way chuck hagel has done today. and i again, admire chuck hagel. what they're, do it's just too fast. what are you doing tomorrow? what are the things in your toolkit tomorrow that you haven't done to continue to pressure put tony tack a different course? >> lawrence, i think it's good to be aggressive. the key issue here, the "washington post" wrote about this in an editorial this weekend, is president obama and the united states doesn't know how to deal with people that are not playing in the 21st century. leaders like putin who will use military force, like assad who will use force on his own people. how do you respond to them if you're not ready to go to war? >> i haven't heard how that response should be managed any
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better than the way i've seen it managed. these are the difficult questions of the 21st century. we will find out, steve, what they're going to do tomorrow tomorrow. and we'll be on it tomorrow. steve clemons and david rohde, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. >> thank you. >> thank you. coming up, chris christie supported medicaid expansion in new jersey, and now he is attacking a candidate for governor in another state for supporting exactly the same thing. and later, some of my interview last week at the united nations with steve mcqueen, the director of the oscar-winning best picture 12 years a slave. and in the rewrite tonight, in her most important awards season speech, which was not televised, lupita nyong'o tells us how she rewrote her own definition of beauty. enough stairs in a lifetime to climb the empire state building 1,000 times.
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>> expanding medicaid will ensure new jersey taxpayers that they will see their dollars maximized. federal funding will cover 100% of the cost of this expansion for the first three years, and then leveling off to 90% in 2020. let me be clear. refusing these federal dollars would not mean they wouldn't be spent. it just means that they would be spent to expand health care access in new york or connecticut or ohio or somewhere else. >> chris christie of course is now entangled in multifaceted scandals in new jersey and is trying to be the very first invisible chairman of the republican governors association. and this is the ad that chris christie, the invisible chairman, has decided to pay for in this year's south carolina gubernatorial campaign. >> remember this guy, sheheene? well, first sheheen supported much of obamacare but then he
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refused to support the lawsuit to stop it. now vincent sheheen wants to use obamacare for a $2 million expansion of medicaid in south carolina. >> joining me know, e.j. dionne, msnbc political analyst and kilometerist for the "washington post." and nia malika henderson. i'm trying to see which one of you has the most shocked look on your face. i'll go with nia on this. you're shocked probably beyond your ability to articulate it. that chris christie would actually support the medicaid expansion in his state and then would use republican governors association money to try to hit candidates who have done the same thing. >> this is the exact same playbook from 2010, it's the exact same playbook we're seeing all over the country when it comes to obamacare. on the one hand you have democratic senate candidates as well as gubernatorial candidates either trying to run away from obama, not have him campaign in the state, but then you have obviously republicans trying to
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tie obama to these democratic candidates. what you haven't seen a lot of, however, is a real full-throated defense of obamacare, and in some ways you have to hand it to sheheen for writing to chris christie and calling hmm out on essentially what is a bit of hypocrisy there by funding this ad that criticizes sheheen for doing exactly what chris christie and a number of other republican governors have done. >> e.j., if you're going for any form of consistency here, the republican governors association would then have to run ads against republican candidates for governor like christie last time around, running for re-election, who support the medicaid expansion. >> i think there are eight of them counting christie who have taken the medicaid expansion, including john kasich, who actually fought republicans in the legislature to do it. and governors in a number of other states. sheheen really wrote a wonderful
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letter calling christie's bluff. how many jobs has new jersey lost as a result of your decision to accept your medicaid dollars, he asked. how many businesses have been harmed by your choice, and so on. it was really a great way to call his bluff. there used to be a time in our country when you could say one thing in one part of the country and a different thing elsewhere. right before the civil war they printed up different campaign biographies for the north and the south. you can't get away with that anymore. you can show this ad on your show and put christie's words right after it. and so i'm very curious where this goes. i hope it's not confined to sheheen in fighting back against this sort of thing. >> let's listen to what president obama said last week about this. >> you've got republican governors here. i won't name them in front of the press because i don't want to get you all in trouble. who've chosen to cover more people through new options under
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medicaid and as a result millions of people are going to get help. states that don't expand medicaid are going to be leaving up to 3. -- 5.4 americans -- million americans uninsured. and that doesn't have to happen. work with us to get this done. >> nia, big laugh when he says he doesn't want to get republican governors in trouble for extending this benefit to so many hundreds of thousands of people. >> well, that's right. and if you look at in south carolina specifically, about 500,000 uninsured adults would be covered under a medicaid expansion if governor nicki hailey decided to do that. but she has said quite pointedly it's something she would never, ever do. and sheheen has said we're leaving this money on the table. and there's a study from the university of carolina that said if we expanded medicaid it would mean revenues of something like
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$11 billion into the states' coffer into 2020 and also about 40,000 jobs. this will be an interesting race. governor hailey, for instance, has also said she would welcome chris christie down to that state to campaign for her. it will be interesting to see if he actually comes and if this expansion of medicaid comes up. >> we have a new report tonight from the new jersey scandal desk involving bill stepien, who is of course christie's former campaign manager and adviser who was forced to remove himself from the christie team. stepien's attorney filed a response to the new jersey committee's -- special committee's motion to compel stepien's testimony and subpoenas through documents and his response included this information for the committee. on february 2014 -- mid february 2014 fbi specialist durant and james oughton visited mr. stepien in his mercer county
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home. in his absence questioned his landlord about his conduct and character. was he married? was he a rotten tenant? did he pay his rent on time in and left behind their calling cards which prominently identified them as criminal investigators and left no doubt as to the nature of their investigation. e.j. dionne, that was all by way of saying another reason why he shouldn't comply with these subpoenas since he's under criminal investigation. >> yeah. and i think what you're seeing there is one of the difficulties that the legislative community is going to have, is there are a lot of people who just don't want to testify. and i think they're going to try to play the investigation by the u.s. attorney off against the legislative inquiry. you know, obviously they do -- everybody has a right not to incriminate themselves, but it could be a good way for witnesses who don't want to expand our knowledge on this to kind of play the thing out so
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that they don't have to testify anytime soon. but it is interesting that they -- agents visited his house. >> yeah. the worst way you can have your political scandal news of the day tamped down is by having the fbi going around to your former associates' homes. it's one way of doing it. but it is the worst way. e.j. zi yoen and nia-malika henderson, thank you both for joining me tonight. >> thank you, lawrence. coming up, the idaho professor who wants to know who he can shoot now that the idaho legislature is trying to make it legal for students to have guns on his campus. ♪ (dad) we lived... thanks to our subaru. ♪ (announcer) love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. there was a boy who traveled to a faraway place
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in the "spotlight" tonight, when may i shoot a student? that's the question asked by my next guest, greg hempegian, a professor at boise state university. also joining us now is mike masterson, the police chief in boise, idaho. greg, tell us why you had to ask this question in this op-ed piece. you're asking it of your state legislator -- legislature there in idaho. >> well, you know, the only way to fight farce is with farce. and this was a public safety question. this is a right that the university presidents have had in the law, to regulate guns on campus. and it's being taken away. and the worst insult, the reason it was farcical, was because they wouldn't let our police chief talk. they brought in someone from the
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nra, gave him 40 minutes. our police chief was there. and to me that really could only be answered with satire. >> well, you make some very serious points in the op-ed piece. i'm going to read part of it. and you do do it with a wink most of the way through. you say, "i have had encounters with disgruntled students over the years, some of whom seemed quite upset. but i always assumed that when they reached into their backpacks they were going for a pencil. since i carry a pen to lecture i did not feel outgunned, and because there are no working sharpeners in the lecture hall the most they could get off is a single point. but now that we'll be all packing heat, i would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement. now that lethal force is an option, i need to know which infractions may be treated as de facto capital crimes." chief masterson, you know, those questions have a real basis to
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them now with the legislature contemplating making it completely legal suddenly for college kids to have guns. >> it's a reality that we're facing. we think the law is going to go through. and what it will require is the development of a whole new set of procedures, how to contact people that are in classrooms that someone sees a gun on to how can we do this being least disruptive in a learning environment. and there's a lot of work to be done that lies ahead of us. >> there's one estimate that that work's going to cost over $2 million including retraining of police officers involved but now they're going to have to distinguish between good guns and bad guns on campus. where before all guns were bad on campus. greg, it seems to me that you might have some better educational purposes for that $2 million. >> well, yeah. and i think as a lot of letter writers have pointed out, i
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don't know nothing about guns, and i shouldn't have one. but with nine hours' training i too can become a hobbyist police officer and be authorized to bring a gun on campus and to use it according to my nine hours of training. i don't want vigilantes protecting me in my classroom. i think vigilante justice is best practiced at home. and i have nothing against it. just no, thanks, i don't need them to have guns if they're not trained officers of the law or have extensive experience. and people around them, professionals who will check on their mental health, who will check on their ability to carry a gun every day. and that's what police officers do, and i'm very grateful for it. >> college is that place where people are being kind of guided into their adult maturity. and greg, you write about this bill. you are encouraging firearms within a densely packed
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concentration of young people who are away from home for the first time and are coincidentally the age associated with alcohol and drug experimentation and the commission of felonies. chief masterson, the ideas that drunk frat boys should have more loaded weapons near them at that time in their lives seems particularly reckless. >> well, it can be a dangerous combination. we found that out a few years ago in boise, where we had exactly that happen. two young men, good families, intoxicated, drinking, and then there was a use of a firearm that led to the death of one individual. two lives lost because the other individual ended up spending time if prison. it's just a deadly combination. and we thinks that it's a solution being posed where there's no problem. >> professor greg hampikian of
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boise state university, and boise police chief mike masterson, thank you both very much for joining me tonight. >> thank you. coming up, the most important awards season speech was not televised. this is a deeply moving speech. lupita nyong'o told an extraordinary story last week here in los angeles. it's one that you must hear. you will want your daughters to hear it, your granddaughters to hear it. it's next in "the rewrite." ♪ [ male announcer ] nothing says, "you're my #1 copilot," like a milk-bone biscuit. ♪
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we first heard lupita nyong'o's eloquence and gratitude when she accepted her screen actors guild award. >> thank you, thank you, thank you, steve mcqueen.
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[ cheers and applause ] thank you for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on. you are love personified. >> her eloquence graced the stage at the oscars last night in an historic speech. historic because she is now only the seventh black woman to win an academy award. her win coming 75 years after hattie mcdaniel was the first black woman to win an oscar. but the most important speech that lupita nyong'o gave during this awards season was not televised. it was last week at "essence" magazine's black women in hollywood celebration, where she was given the award for breakthrough performance. she decided to talk about something that is almost never discussed publicly. she began her speech by saying she wanted to talk about beauty. black beauty. dark beauty. black women in hollywood and
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everywhere knew what she was talking about, but they didn't know the story she was about to tell. she revealed that the starburst she has enjoyed in hollywood carries with it something more profound than new acting opportunities. some women and girls now see in her a new way of seeing themselves. >> i received a letter from a girl. and i'd like to share just a small part of it with you. "dear lupita," it reads. "i think you're really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in hollywood overnight. i was just about to buy dentures, whitening cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me. my hea ." my heart bled a little when i read those words. i could not guess my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself in that it would propel me to be
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such an image of hope in the same way that the women of "the color purple" were to me. i remember a time when i too felt unbeautiful. i put on the tv and only saw pale skin. i got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. and my one prayer to god, the miracle worker, was that i would wake up lighter skinned. the morning would come, and i would be so excited about seeing my new skin that i would refuse to look down at myself until i was in front of a mirror because i wanted to see my fair face first. and every day i experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as i had been the day before. i tried to negotiate with god. i told him i would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what i wanted. i would listen to my mother's every word sitting right there, and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter.
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but i guess god was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because he never listened. and when i was a teenager, my self-hate grew worse. as you can imagine happens with adolescents, my mother reminded me often that she thought i was beautiful. but that was no consolation. she's my mother. of course she's supposed to think i'm beautiful. and then alec wick came on the international scene. [ applause ] a celebrated model. she was dark as night. she was in all the runways and in every magazine. and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. even oprah called her beautiful. and that made it a fact. [ laughter ] [ applause ] i couldn't believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. my complexion had always been an
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obstacle to overcome. and all of a sudden oprah was telling me it wasn't. it was perplexing. and i wanted to reject it because i had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. >> no! >> but a flower couldn't help but bloom inside me. when i saw alek, i inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that i could not deny. now i had a spring in my step because i felt more seen, more appreciated by the far-away gatekeepers of beauty. but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. to the beholders that i thought mattered i was still unbeautiful. and my mother again would say to me, "you can't eat beauty. it doesn't feed you." and these words played and bothered me. i didn't really understand them until finally i realized that beauty was not a thing that i could acquire or consume. it was something that i just had to be. and what my mother meant when
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she said "you can't eat beauty" was that you can't rely on how you look to sustain you. [ applause ] what actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion. for yourself and for those around you. that kind of beauty -- excuse me. that kind of beauty inflames the heart o'and enchants the soul. it is what got patsy in so much trouble with her master. but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. we remember the beauty of her spirit, even after the beauty of her body has faded away. and so i hope that my presence on your screens and in your magazines may lead you young girls on a similar journey, that you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of
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being beautiful inside. [ applause pla[ applause ] there is no shade in that beauty. thank you. after your company's gone public? and the capital's been invested? or when your company's bought another? is it over after you've given back? you never stop achieving. that's why, at barclays, our ambition is to always realize yours. [ girl ] my mom, she makes underwater fans that are powered by the moon. ♪ she can print amazing things, right from her computer. [ whirring ] [ train whistle blows ] she makes trains that are friends with trees.
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♪ my mom works at ge. ♪
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steve mcqueen and i went to the united nations to discuss what became the oscar-winning film for best picture. that's next. ♪ (announcer) the subaru forester. motor trend's two thousand fourteen sport utility of the year. when you get some recognition, you can't help feeling a little humbled, and a little proud. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. to stretch my party budget. but when my so-called bargain brand towel
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long before their acceptance speeches last night a couple of the big oscar winners dropped by "the last word," beginning with my friend john ridley. >> john ridley, dust off the tuxedo. you're going to be very busy during awards season. this is just a fantastic piece of work. >> thank you. >> i'm very, very, very happy to have you here tonight. thank you, john. whatever happens on oscar night, it is one of the greatest contributions to our -- >> thank you very much. >> -- understandings of our selves in this country through film. >> thank you. forgive me, not just to this country but to the world because there were other countries that were involved in it. so it's not just america's history. it's the world history, unfortunately. >> last night screenwriter john
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ridley shared the praise, as he always does, with the author of the book he had the honor of adapting. >> all the praise goes to solomon northrup. those are his words. that is his life. >> and steve mcqueen reminded us once again that slavery is not yet a thing of the past. >> everyone -- everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. this is the most important legacy of solomon northup. i dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today. thank you very much. thank you. thank you. [ cheers and applause ] last week at the united nations i moderated a discussion of the now oscar-winning film "12 years a slave" with director steve mcqueen. immediately after the film was shown secretary-general of the united nations ban ki moon said
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it had left him speechless. steve mcqueen and i then began our discussion. and since the u.n. doesn't do this sort of thing every night, there was a brief technical problem that you will see where the lights were briefly dimmed. here is some of my discussion at the u.n. with steve mcqueen. >> you were on the united nations blog, "slavery is a huge hole in the canvas of cinema, and for me it had to be visualized." what do you think is the power that the film delivers beyond what the experience of reading the book can deliver? >> well, what it does is it brings it to life. what it does, it makes it real. what it does, it isn't a myth. it's a reality. and with that reality comes
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one's own response. and with that comes empathy. with that comes understanding. i mean, i can't count how many times i've heard or -- i mean, okay. i'll come back to what i want to say. i mean, for example, a friend of mine, a producer, was in a cinema in toronto when we first showed the film in the toronto film festival. and he's a white guy from britain. he was sitting down. and this middle-aged african-american woman sat down next to him. they started talking before the movie. towards the end of the movie he said he felt a hand slip over his hand and they held hands towards the end of the movie. and when the end credits began, they sort of fell into each othertion arms in tears. and it's just one of those things where that wouldn't have happened without that experience of a movie and that sort of
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common -- that commonality, that sort of -- that community of people watching that movie. and it's the power of cinema. it's just the power of cinema. >> knowing that slavery is a huge hole in the canvas of cinema, something that has been largely absent from cinema, especially in realistic depictions, did you feel an enormous responsibility that you were going to be given two hours, what turns out to be two hours and 15 minutes of film, to tell the entire story? >> for me it wasn't a responsibility. it was a privilege to do that. because i just feel there's a lot of -- there's an ambivalence toward slavery, a huge ambivalence to american slavery. but also it was about not just what happened in the past, it was about what's happening now with 21 million people who are in modern-day slavery and giving that attention too by having
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solomon northup in this movie and people knowing him and knowing his family, understanding who he is, obviously that translate to someone else who, you know, wherever they are in the world, who was kidnapped and sort of brought into sort of servitude in a similar way. i'm sorry, i'm getting a bit excited there. but it was just -- what i'm trying to say is for me it was always a parallel. this was a mirror. this was a mirror of what's actually happening in our reality. and that's what cinema is good. so it's not about 1841 when solomon was kidnapped. it's actually about 2014. >> i just have one final question for steve, which is we have all had the amazing experience of watching this film, being in the audience and having that audience experience. when you watch it now, do you get to have that audience experience where you simply let the film take you away, or are you still sitting there as a
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director and editor and thinking about, mm, i wish i'd had the light a little different in that scene? or do you get to have that collective audience experience that we all have? >> i still -- yes, i do. and when you've -- it's funny, when you finish a film, after editing it, and i watched it with the audience for the first time when we finished it, yeah, it was -- it was like a roller coaster ride. it was -- because you do distance yourself from it. you can look at it in the way that it's -- you're not involved in it. and it becomes a story because, you know, i had amazing actors like michael fassbender and chiwetel ejiofor, obviously brad pitt. you get lost in the narrative. so yeah, it had its effect. but it's the solomon northup story. you know, all i was doing was representing solomon northup's story. so solomon is the one whose -- who is the actual author really.
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>> you can see our complete discussion at the united nations on our website, thelastword.msnbc.com. chris hayes is up next. good evening from new york, i'm credit hayes. tonight all eyes are on the situation in ukraine. a senior obama administration official tells nbc news that president obama has been meeting with his national security council discussing potential options with ukraine. tensions remain extremely high as russia steps up its occupation of crimea, a semi autonomous region located on the black sea in the southern section of the country. russian president vladimir putin shows no sign of backing down, despite mounting pressure from the u.s., nato and the eu. this standoff has escalated incredibly quickly with a steady string of major developments since pro-kremlin forces moved to